Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week 27: Boy Racer: My Journey to Tour de France Record-Breaker, by Mark Cavendish

So here I sit, reflecting on this year-long reading challenge, realizing that updating the blog on a regular basis is proving more tricky than the reading! The reading is just a given - the blog takes more of a concerted effort. But I do enjoy having this evolving documentation of the whole process, so it's worth it, to me. At any rate, here come a few rapid-fire book reviews! First off is Boy Racer, by Mark Cavendish. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that bikes are a pretty big part of my life. That being said, I love the Tour de France. I mean, I LOVE it. Jamie and I don't have cable, but every July we get cable for one single month in order to watch the Tour coverage. Last year, I was in Paris for the final stage on the Champ-Elysees, and it was an experience I will never forget. I thought I would commemorate this very special time of year by reading a couple of books that are related to the Tour. Cavendish is a great cyclist, with a big personality, so it seems natural that he would write a book documenting his rise to fame. At a young age, this sprinter is already closing in on the all-time record of the most stage wins in the Tour de France. He's got an incredibly healthy sense of self-esteem, and is often brash and unrestrained in interviews. He's prone to swearing as well as breaking down in tears, prompting me to refer to him as Crybaby several times over the years. He reminds me in some ways of Lance Armstrong, in the sense that he's got this persona that sometimes overshadows his cycling. His book chronicles his upbringing in the Isle of Man (his nickname is "The Manx Missile") and his introduction to cycling. We learn about his constant struggle with authority as well as his difficulty with controlling his weight. The reader starts to understand that Cavendish's main motivation is the intense pressure he puts on himself. He's a perfectionist, of sorts, and very self-effacing - he's the first one to admit how stubborn and volatile he can be; additionally, he often refers to himself as "fat" and details rides in which he is struggling to keep pace. His accounts of key Tour moments is totally engaging and exciting. Certain details had me holding my breath as I read them. The man can write, and I think that anyone who is even remotely interested in professional cycling will find this book to be a delight.

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